Women Writers Reading Challenge #29: Academy Street by Mary Costello


Mary Costello’s book follows a similar path as the last one I read by Cynthia Ozick. They are both books that detail the trajectory of a single life. But Costello’s book is much quieter and much sadder. The events that occur in Tess Lohan, the protagonist’s, life are not driven by herself. Tess allows life to steer her. She’s forever looking for signs. Instead of steering her course, she comes upon it and reacts to it. This doesn’t mean her life is devoid of beautiful moments, but everything in her life feels like it is beyond her control. And yet, Costello garners great sympathy for her character.

Instead of contempt, the reader is overwhelmed by pity. For who doesn’t know what it’s like to feel lonely? Or unloved? Or confused? You feel her grief–you feel that she feels things deeply. Costello shows us a quiet life, not necessarily as a teaching tool that tells us what to avoid in our own lives, but as a way to deepen our understanding of the people we rarely notice, who lead quiet lives far from ours.

Maybe not a beach read, but it’s a good book to curl up with on a rainy day with a cup to tea.